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REGIONS EUROPE


The‘golden age’ of Lithuanian lifesciences


THE BALTIC COUNTRY IS CONSOLIDATING ITS GROWING LIFE SCIENCES INDUSTRY FOR THE FUTURE. ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


22.1%, with the turnover of compa- nies operating in the industry reach- ing more than €613m, according to the Lithuanian agency for science, innovation and technology (Mita). Inga Romanovskienė, the director


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of Go Vilnius, the official development agency of Lithuania’s capital, says that this growth is pushing the life sciences industry to enter “a golden age of sorts”, with an increasing num- ber of start-ups and foreign companies setting up to make use of its ecosystem. The national government hopes to main-


tain this momentum, laying out a strategy in 2018 to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution of the industry from 2% to 5% over the next decade. “Lithuania has anambitious goal to become


one of the leading countries in life sciences in the [Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)] region by 2030,” says Aušrinė Armonaitė, Lithuania’s minister for economy and innovation, who adds that Lithuania has already paved the way for this to happen (see interview on page 82). Today, the Baltic country’s life sciences sec-


tor hasmorethan 400 companies and 5000 peo- ple working in areas such as molecular biology, biophysics, genetics and biomedicine.


Scientific anchors The foundations of biotechnology research in Lithuania began in the 1970s, when the former Soviet Institute of Applied Enzymology was founded in Vilnius to develop technologies for enzyme production. This institute then spawned Fermentas, a


leading biotech company in CEE, which was acquired for $260mby US pharmaceutical firm ThermoFisher Scientific in 2010. More than 1300 people are currently


employed in Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltic’s Vilnius site, including more than 100 scientists who undertake research and development (R&D) and produce molecular, protein and cel- lular biology products. InDecember2020, thecompany announced plans to expand its manufacturing facility and


76


etween 2011 and 2016, Lithuania’s life sciences sector grew by an annual average of


create a further 140 jobs. The company’s man- aging director Algimantas Markauskas said in a statement that the level of qualified candidates available to the company was a determining factor in the decision. “The success ThermoFisher has experienced


in Lithuania is a direct result of the region’s rich talent,” he clarified. The achievements of Lithuanian scientists and the depth of the tal- ent pool is oftencited by life sciencescompanies as a draw to the Baltic country (see feature on page 78). This includes Virginijus Šikšnys at Vilnius University, who has made significant contributions to Crispr gene-editing technology.


Multinational cluster Several other prominent multinational life sci- ence companies have a presence in Lithuania, including biopharmaceutical giant Teva and medical devices producer Intersurgical, which has a branch in the city of Pabrade. In 2020, Lithuania attracted a record six for-


eign greenfield investments in the life sciences sector, up from two projects a year earlier, according to fDi Markets. Although from a low base, this ranked Lithuania second worldwide in terms of annual growth in numbers of life sciences foreign investment projects. One such investment wasmade by US-based neurological disease specialist Biogen, which set up a new Lithuanian subsidiary in June 2020.Mikko Fernström, the generalmanager at Biogen Lithuania, says the company’s local presence has created new opportunities for partnerships, attracting the best talent and contributing to the healthcare system. “The life sciences and medical community


in Lithuania is very active, with high expertise and close ties to academic institutes outside Lithuania,” he says. “From the moment we made the decision to invest into Lithuania, eve- rything went extremely smoothly from regis- tering our business to opening our offices.” A longer term multinational player is


Roquette Amilina, a Lithuaniansubsidiary of the France-based Roquette, which develops plant- based ingredients, proteins and pharmaceutical excipients. It has operated an R&D centre in Lithuania since 2008, alongside its other labora- tories in the US, Singapore, China and France.


www.fDiIntelligence.com April/May 2021


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